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MY TAKE: Equipping SOCs for the long haul – automation, edge security solidify network defenses

By Byron V. Acohido

Network security is in the throes of a metamorphosis. Advanced technologies and fresh security frameworks are being implemented to deter cyber attacks out at the services edge, where all the action is.

Related: Automating security-by-design in SecOps

This means Security Operations Centers are in a transition. SOCs came on the scene some 20 years ago as the focal point for defending on-premises datacenters of large enterprises. The role of SOCs today is both expanding and deepening, and in doing so, perhaps modeling what it will take to defend IT systems going forward – for organizations of all sizes.

I recently moderated a virtual panel on this topic featuring Scott Dally, director of security operations center Americas at NTT Security, and Devin Johnstone, senior security operations engineer at Palo Alto Networks.

For a full drill down please give a listen to the accompanying podcast version of that discussion. Here are the takeaways:

Pressurized landscape

Organizations today must withstand a constant barrage of cyber attacks. Primary vectors take the form of phishing campaigns, supply chain corruption and ransomware attacks, like the one that recently resulted in the shut down of Colonial Pipeline.

What’s happening is that digital transformation, while providing many benefits, has also dramatically expanded the attack surface. “An old problem is that many companies continue to cling to the notion that cybersecurity is just another cost center, instead of treating it as a potentially catastrophic exposure – one that needs to be continually mitigated,” Dally says.

MY TAKE: Why monetizing data lakes will require applying ‘attribute-based’ access rules to encryption

By Byron V. Acohido

The amount of data in the world topped an astounding 59 zetabytes in 2020, much of it pooling in data lakes.

Related:  The importance of basic research

We’ve barely scratched the surface of applying artificial intelligence and advanced data analytics to the raw data collecting in these gargantuan cloud-storage structures erected by Amazon, Microsoft and Google. But it’s coming, in the form of driverless cars, climate-restoring infrastructure and next-gen healthcare technology.

In order to get there, one big technical hurdle must be surmounted. A new form of agile cryptography must get established in order to robustly preserve privacy and security as all this raw data gets put to commercial use.

I recently had the chance to discuss this with Kei Karasawa, vice president of strategy, and Fang Wu, consultant, at NTT Research, a Silicon Valley-based think tank which is in the thick of deriving the math formulas that will get us there.

They outlined why something called attribute-based encryption, or ABE, has emerged as the basis for a new form of agile cryptography that we will need in order to kick digital transformation into high gear.

For a drill down on our discussion, please give the accompanying podcast a listen. Here are the key takeaways:

Cloud exposures

Data lakes continue to swell because each second of every day, every human, on average, is creating 1.7 megabytes of fresh data. These are the rivulets feeding the data lakes.

A zettabyte equals one trillion gigabytes. Big data just keeps getting bigger. And we humans crunch as much of it as we can by applying machine learning and artificial intelligence to derive cool new digital services. But we’re going to need the help of quantum computers to get to the really amazing stuff, and that hardware is coming.

As we press ahead into our digital future, however, we’ll also need to retool the public-key-infrastructure. PKI is the authentication and encryption framework … more

GUEST ESSAY: A full checklist on how to spot pharming attacks — and avoid becoming a victim

By Peter Baltazar

Cybercriminals use various techniques for conducting cyberattacks. One such popular way to infiltrate a system is Pharming. It is an online scam attack quite similar to Phishing.

Related: Credential stuffing explained

The term Pharming is a combination of two words Phishing and Farming. It is a type of social engineering cyberattack in which the website’s traffic is manipulated to steal confidential credentials from the users. Cybercriminals design a fake website, basically the clone of an official one, and use various means to redirect users to the phony webpage when visiting any other legit site.

Primarily the Pharming attack is planned to gain sensitive data like login credentials, personally identifiable information (PII), social security numbers, bank details, and more. The attackers can also use it for installing malware programs on the victim’s system.

Pharming vs phishing

Though Pharming and Phishing share almost similar goals, the approach to conduct Pharming is entirely different from Phishing. Unlike Phishing, Pharming is more focused on sabotaging the system rather than manipulating the victims. However, we will later know how Phishing plays a vital role in conducting Pharming.

The Pharming attacks are carried out by modifying the settings on the victim’s system or compromising the DNS server. Manipulating the Domain Name Service (DNS) protocol and rerouting the victim from its intended web address to the fake web address can be done in the following two ways:

•Changing the Local Host file. In this method of manipulating DNS, the attackers infiltrate the victim’s device and change the local host file. A local host file is a directory of IP addresses. The modified local host file would redirect users to the fake website whenever they try to open the legit site the next time. The phony website is designed similar to the one victims intended to visit so that the users are not alarmed.

To modify the local host file, the attacker primarily uses the Phishing technique so … more

ROUNDTABLE: Experts react to DHS assigning TSA to keep track of cyber attacks on pipelines

By Byron V. Acohido

The same federal agency that makes you take your shoes off and examines your belongings before boarding a flight will begin monitoring cyber incidents at pipeline companies.

Related: DHS begins 60-day cybersecurity sprints

The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday issued a directive requiring all pipeline companies to report cyber incidents to DHS’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA.)

This, of course, follows a devastating ransomware attack that resulted in a shutdown of Colonial Pipeline.

It can be argued that this is one small step toward the true level of federal oversight needed to protect critical infrastructure in modern times. I covered the aviation industry in the 1980s and 1990s when safety regulations proved their value by compelling aircraft manufacturers and air carriers to comply with certain standards, at a time when aircraft fleets were aging and new fly-by-wire technology introduced complex risks.

We’re a long way from having regulatory frameworks for data privacy and network security needed for critical infrastructure — akin to what we have to keep aviation and ground transportation safe and secure. However, the trajectory of ransomware attacks, supply chain corruption, denial of service attacks and cyber espionage is undeniable.

It seems clear we’re going to need more regulations to help guide the private sector into doing the right things. The discussion is just getting started, as you can see by this roundtable of comments from industry experts:

Edgard Capdevielle, CEO, Nozomi Networks

Most critical infrastructure sectors don’t have mandatory cyber standards, and until now that included oil and gas. The requirement for mandatory breach reporting will help shine a light on the extent of the problem in this sector.  Cybersecurity is a team sport.

GUEST ESSAY: ‘World password day’ reminds us to embrace password security best practices

By Chad Cragle

We celebrated World Password Day on May 6, 2021.

Related: Credential stuffing fuels account takeovers

Did you know that this unconventional celebration got its start in 2013, and that it’s now an official holiday on the annual calendar? Every year, the first Thursday in May serves as a reminder for us to take control of our personal password strategies.

Passwords are now an expected and typical part of our data-driven online lives. In today’s digital culture, it’s not unusual to need a password for everything—from accessing your smartphone, to signing into your remote workspace, to checking your bank statements, and more. We’ve all grown used to entering passwords dozens of times per day, and because of this, we often take passwords for granted and forget how crucial they are.

With that in mind, what steps can you take to ensure that your personal data is protected at all times? As a data-driven, security-focused company, we’ve rounded up our top tips inspired by World Password Day to help you improve your password game.

Password overhaul

We know… just the mere thought of coming up with (and remembering) yet another new password is daunting. The average person has about 100 different passwords for the various tools, apps, websites, and online services they use on a regular basis. With so many passwords to keep track of, those familiar “Update Password” prompts tend to get bothersome.

But, unfortunately, we live in a world of constant hacking attempts and security breaches. While changing passwords may be inconvenient at times, following this password best practice can help prevent the following data catastrophes:

MY TAKE: How SASE has begun disrupting IT — by shifting cybersecurity to the ‘services edge’

By Byron V. Acohido

One of the hottest topics at RSA Conference 2021 taking place virtually this week is the Secure Access Services Edge (SASE) security framework.

Related: Cybersecurity experts react to Biden’s EO

SASE (pronounced sassy) essentially is a roadmap for infusing privacy and security deeply into the software coding that gives life to our smartphones, IoT devices and cloud infrastructure, i.e. at the “services edge,” where all the action is taking place.

Coined by Gartner in late 2018, SASE is gaining momentum as a generational disruptive force. It calls for organizations to start proactively managing the myriad new attack vectors they’ve opened up in the pursuit of digital agility — by embracing a bold new IT architecture that extends network security far beyond the traditional perimeter

However, disruption doesn’t happen without displacement. And at this early stage, things are a bit chaotic. As established and newer cybersecurity vendors scramble to catch the SASE wave, marketing messages have sometimes been less than clear.

From the customer’s point of view, some early-adopter enterprises have experienced buyer’s remorse trying out SASE services that don’t really make the grade, says Mike Spanbauer, security evangelist at Juniper Networks, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based supplier of networking technology.

“What we’ve heard from out in the marketplace is that a number of SASE solutions that supposedly could deliver everything as promised, were found to be lacking in many capacities,” Spanbauer says.

ROUNDTABLE: Experts react to President Biden’s exec order in the aftermath of Colonial Pipeline hack

By Byron V. Acohido

As wake up calls go, the Colonial Pipeline ransomware hack was piercing.

Related: DHS embarks on 60-day cybersecurity sprints

The attackers shut down the largest fuel pipeline in the U.S., compelling Colonial to pay them 75 bitcoins, worth a cool $5 million.

This very high-profile caper is part of an extended surge of ransomware attacks, which  quintupled globally between the first quarter of 2018 and the fourth quarter of 2020, and is expected to rise 20 percent to 40 percent this year,  according to insurance giant Aon.

Ransomware is surging at at time when the global supply chain is being corrupted from inside out, as so vividly illustrated by the SolarWinds supply chain debacle.

In response, President Biden last week issued an executive order requiring more rigorous cybersecurity practices for federal agencies and contractors that develop software for the federal government. Last Watchdog asked a roundtable of cybersecurity industry experts for their reaction. Here’s what they said, responses edited for clarity and length:

Chenxi Wang, founder & general partner, Rain Capital

The new executive order is a swift response from the administration. It’s refreshing to see a government executive order that understands technology trends such as “zero trust”, is able to delineate “Operational Technology (OT)” from “information technology (IT,)” and can talk intelligently about supply chain risks.

While some of the measures stipulated in the order are considered table stakes like multi-factor authentication, the fact that the order exists will help to raise the collective security posture of products and services. It will not be sufficient to defend against sophisticated adversaries, but it will help organizations on the lower end of the capability spectrum to improve their cyber posture and defense.

Keatron Evans, principal security researcher, Infosec Institute

President Biden’s order was drafted with heavy involvement from actual cybersecurity experts, and this is encouraging. Requiring federal agencies to produce an actionable plan to implement Zero Trust Architecture is … more